Black Milk Clothing Illustrates How Not To Use Social Media
Sometimes brands that hit it big forget where their success came from in the first place - but their followers certainly don't. Popular online clothing retailer Black Milk Clothing learned this the hard way this weekend. Update: The company has since issued an apology.
To celebrate May the Fourth (Star Wars Day, for those of you who were unaware), the Black Milk Clothing fanpage posted this…
…which, understandably, bothered several fans due to the implication that being more like the woman on the left is somehow better or more desirable than being like the woman on the right (Mayim Bialik as Amy in "The Big Bang Theory"). It also happens to go against their own, arguably cult-like, "commandments". In particular:
COMMANDMENT #1 - YOU SHALL BE EXCELLENT TO ONE ANOTHER
COMMANDMENT #5 - YOU SHALL NOT MAKE CRITICAL COMMENTS ON OTHER WOMEN'S BODIES.
When some of the page's followers pointed out this contradiction of their own rules to Black Milk, their comments were either promptly deleted or met with condescending comments from the brand's social media team, which only served to gain more attention than the initial meme itself.
But Black Milk persisted, defending their right to "poke fun at themselves" – though no members of staff were featured in the meme - and stated that the people who had been offended by the post were a minority and admitted that they would continue to delete any comments that weren't "positive" enough. When this was, again, received negatively, they even went so far as to tell their own customers to unlike their page and to stop supporting them if they felt that this particular thread was out of line:
For many followers and long-time customers that had been watching from the sidelines, this was the final straw, and several decided to jump in and attempt to convince Black Milk of how terribly they were handling the situation...
After dozens of people were banned from the fan page (including several long-time customers that had helped to build the brand in the first place) and even more comments were deleted or unsatisfactorily responded to, many people took to the company's many regional fan groups to express their disappointment in the way the situation was being handled, leading to an array of hilarious memes and not-so-hilarious comments directed at the company, including some from media personalities and affiliates of Disney, with whom Black Milk have an upcoming licensing deal.
The above tweet linked to this video.
More than 24 hours after the initial image was posted, Black Milk Clothing finally decided to remove the thread, but would not back down when it came to an apology, stating the following:
Hey guys, we have had a really good think about this situation and we have come to a decision. We plan on deleting this post (in a few minutes) because we feel it is giving a platform for hateful comments about the brand we know and love. All that we want to do is create beautiful clothes, not deal with internet raging. So let's close this off. In terms of the major issues people have mentioned, here are our feelings:1. This is a joke, harmless, not hateful. We like to have a joke and poke fun at ourselves. Be cool with it.2. Yes, we removed a lot of negative comments because we felt like they had overstepped the mark! We are constantly hearing from our customers that our fan page has become a place of complaining and attacking, and they are sick of it! So we are working at trying to communicate that complaining and negativity all the time is not okay. We have the right to do that, and people should respect that.3. Yes, people were banned, again, because we felt they had overstepped the mark and were being disrespectful. You can share your opinion, but you can't attack our staff. We love them too much. Of course, many people are saying that they were banned for "respectfully sharing their opinion". But there are two sides to every story. 4. We LOVE our customers, but yes, we believe that if you get really upset by the way we do things, you should probably move on and not be a part of what we are doing. That's not mean, that's just to save all of us more frustration! 5. "Why can't you just admit that you were wrong and apologise. Is it so hard?" Because we have integrity. Because we didn't do anything wrong, so we have nothing to apologise for! We stand up for what we believe in. People can have differences of opinions about what is right and wrong, right? Hope that makes sense. Thanks so much to all the kind and supportive comments (and hugs) from girls all over the world who are looking forward to a much more positive BM space. - All the BM team (yes, all of us!)
Though it was a relief to see them finally give in and delete the post, rather than to continue their ban-and-delete spree, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of many – especially those who had been banned from the page without even commenting on the thread in the first place.
Hey Black Milk Clothing, how do you want me to do my job as admin of SEVERAL official and unofficial groups if you ban me from your fan page? How would you like the rest of the admins you have banned to do the same? God forbid we speak out against the almighty and stand up for what is right. You did something in poor taste. You were called out on it. Suck it the fuck up and apologise.The minority? Yeah good one. So now we're not listening to minorities? Yeah ok, let's go back to the dark ages when women couldn't vote and being gay was a disease. I guess we should tell ALL minorities the same thing. I mean are you even fucking kidding me right now?Unless we see an apology issued to every single person who was banned and bullied today by someone who seems to not understand their job, you're going to lose a lot of customers who have been with you loyally for the last 2-4 years.But I guess you have shown us that you could not give one iota of a fuck about the business we have given you.Don't forget that you're employed because of us. Don't become that fucking guy. Between myself and my closest friends alone we have spent over 100k in your store. Maybe now that you're so big you don't care, but don't forget where you came from. We won't.Seems your social media team needs some training - I'm available to get you back on the right track so that everyone in your community pages can, you know, stop hating you right now.But you probs don't care. As stated time and time again by an employee who has shown nothing but disrespect to the entire community.Good luck fixing this mess.
With thousands of customers feeling alienated and shrugged off by a company which they helped to build (and which has spent the past few years handling the social side of their company brilliantly, with many citing it as one of the best examples of online presence done right), many fans are now stating that they will no longer be supporting the brand. The amount of likes on the company's Facebook page has already dropped by several thousand.
Talking down to your community probably tops the list [as the worst social media faux pas]. Social media is an equal-opportunity platform, and you have to be open and honest with the people you're engaging with. People can sense when you're not being authentic and they generally don't react well to that. Isolating your community by treating them as essentially different from yourself is a great way to cannibalise your social media network.
How right they were.
Black Milk Clothing's head of sales and marketing, Cameron Parker, has issued an apology, stating "I want to start off by saying I am incredibly sorry for everything that has happened over the last couple of days. We made a mistake and we apologise sincerely."
Parker wrote out a five-point response outlining the company's views on the controversy, ending with "We stand up for what we believe in. People can have differences of opinions about what is right and wrong, right?"
You can read the full apology here.